Monday, August 10, 2015

WHAT THE EXPERTS SAY: Christine Amsden, SciFi/Fantasy Author

Christine Amsden, SciFi/Fantasy Author
Award-winning SciFi/fantasy author Christine Amsden brings us her newest novel, MADISON’S SONG, described as anadventurous paranormal romance.” Reviewers tout it as a “fast-pace, highly entertaining read with fully sympathetic and compelling characters.” Amsden, who has written and published more than a dozen novels, including the Cassie Scot, paranormal detective series, says that above all she writes stories “about people” and claims that “Great characters come from the heart.”

Amsden, who likes to spin off characters to tell new stories, has many ideas for her next novel, but has not yet decided what it should be. A free-lance editor, she currently lives in Kansas City with her husband and two children. When she’s not writing, she likes to read and watch TV – especially science fiction shows.

Q: Your newest book, MADISON’S SONG, crosses several genres, including romance and paranormal. How/why did werewolves appeal to you as a way to tell a story about romance? Or do you use romance to tell a story about werewolves?

Christine Amsden: I definitely used werewolves to tell a story about romance! :)

I'm a character girl. First and foremost, setting aside all genres that I can and have brushed against, I tell stories about people. Fantasy is fun and magical; I love it! But also, it puts ordinary people in extraordinary situations, giving us a chance to see who we are and who we can be when put to the test. And that's what I did to Madison – put her to the test. I forced her to face her greatest fear in order to save a brother she loves. Along the way, she falls in love with Scott, a werewolf who doesn't believe he's worthy of a woman like Madison.

Q: Your reviewers praise MADISON’S SONG and say it is a “fast-paced, highly entertaining read with fully sympathetic and compelling characters.” In a paranormal romance how do you make your characters sympathetic and compelling? Does the world-building enhance or detract from your characters?

Christine Amsden: Good world-building enhances the characters. It puts them to the test. It shows us what they're made of.

Great characters come from the heart. I put a piece of myself into each and every character I create. And Madison … well, when I first created her as a minor character in another series, she wasn't supposed to have her own book! So I made her a little too much like me. This became a challenge when she took the spotlight, along with all the little insecurities I have about myself – weight, shyness, men … I even chew my nails and my bottom lip the way she does!

But when I put Madison to the test, I also put myself to the test. What would I do if someone I loved were in danger? I hope I would become the lioness Madison becomes!

At any rate, the magical world Madison tackles head-on is in every way a test of character and a test of self.

As a counter-example: Bad world-building usually involves some magic gift or talent that makes life easier for the protagonist. I see this too often in paranormal mystery, in which a psychic uses a gift to solve a crime that couldn't otherwise have been solved by normal means. I've never enjoyed this type of story because it's too easy. Instead of the magic being a source of conflict, it's a deus ex machina – a gift from heaven that conveniently solves the problem.

Q: Did you do any research of werewolf lore to tell your story? Or did you create the backstory from your imagination?

Christine Amsden: Strangely enough, I did a research project on werewolves when I was in the sixth grade! I've read lots of shapeshifter books and stories since then, so that by the time I wrote this book there wasn't much left to do except decide which of the many versions of a werewolf to embrace. For me it went back to that sixth grade research project – I chose the man who becomes a monster at the full moon.

Q: Reviewers almost without exception appreciated the pace of MADISON’S SONG:  “action and thrills abound” “non-stop action” “intensely riveting” and my favorite “What I didn’t like about this book, was that it ended.” How did you develop such a page-turner? How important is suspense to telling your story?

Christine Amsden: “What I didn’t like about this book, was that it ended.”

:) :) :)

Yeah, I loved that one too!

Suspense is the glue that holds my stories together. When I develop a story, character is my most important consideration and it's where I start. World building comes next – a home for my characters. After that I look for something to propel the plot forward, something that will help me explore the characters and the world I put them in. That's suspense.

Before I can excite the reader, I have to excite myself. To get them to turn pages, I first need to get myself to write them! I have a short attention span and am easily bored. As a young reader, I used to skim past paragraphs that were too long, eager to get to the good parts! So as an author, I try to only write the good parts.

Q: What makes readers accept werewolves as part of a credible world? How do you make them believable? What leads to credibility in a paranormal story?

Christine Amsden: I own it. This is sort of my mantra – before I can sell it, I first have to believe it myself. I have to own it. When I write about magic, I make no apologies and take no prisoners.

Q: How helpful is humor to telling your story?

Christine Amsden: Comic relief is critical, especially in a book that goes dark like Madison's Song did. And in terms of romance I think that if there's too much darkness, it's hard for a reader to believe in the happily ever after. Love can't just be built on shared tragedy; it needs shared humor as well.

Q:  Did you write MADISON’S SONG strictly to entertain or did you also have a message you wanted to deliver?

Christine Amsden:


“Love yourself.”

“You never know how strong you are until you have no other choice.”

“Don't let fear rule your life.”

Or just have fun!

Q: Does the concept of hero vs villain apply to MADISON’S SONG? What are the characteristics of an effective villain? Do you need a villain to have a hero?

Christine Amsden: There are several villains in Madison's song – one major villain who has been a recurring character (but who stays behind the scenes in this book) and a couple of minor villains. Villains aren't absolutely necessary (a hero can overcome nature or fate or himself), but they're useful.

I like villains who aren't pure evil. I may be naive, but I don't believe that people set out to be evil, or that anyone, no matter how bad, believes himself to be evil. He has his reasons for what he does (no matter how poorly justified).

And now I feel like I'm getting ahead of myself, because all of this is actually a huge theme in my next book, Kaitlin's Tale, in which I take a villain from a previous book and turn him into a hero. :)

Q: What’s next? Will you spin off another character or write more about Madison?

Christine Amsden: Madison's story is over, though she may appear in future books. Once this situation is resolved, she would really prefer to teach music to children, and maybe have some of her own.

Kaitlin's Tale is next. Kaitlin is another friend of Cassie and Madison who grew too big for her original role in the Cassie Scot series. That book is finished and under contract – it will probably be out next summer.

As for what's next …. I don't know! That's as honest as I can be. I've come up with several ideas but none are calling to me strongly enough at the moment. I have ideas for completely new stories in completely new worlds, and I have ideas for more Cassie Scot stories (one involving Cassie herself, and several involving her brothers and sisters).

A few days ago I considered doing a reader poll asking what fans think I should write next. :)

Something will call to me soon, I'm sure. I only hope fans will be as enthusiastic as they have been about my Cassie Scot books.

Q: Tell us something about Christine Amsden. What do you like to do when you’re not writing?

Christine Amsden: I'm a freelance editor and a mom. I enjoy reading, especially fantasy and romance, and I enjoy watching TV, especially science fiction. I'm currently rewatching Sense8 in the background, my new favorite show.

About Christine Amsden

Christine Amsden has been writing science fiction and fantasy for as long as she can remember. She loves to write and it is her dream that others will be inspired by this love and by her stories. Speculative fiction is fun, magical, and imaginative but great speculative fiction is about real people defining themselves through extraordinary situations. Christine writes primarily about people and it is in this way that she strives to make science fiction and fantasy meaningful for everyone.

Christine currently lives in the Kansas City area with her husband, Austin, who has been her biggest fan and the key to her success. They have two beautiful children.

Her voice is enchanting; his soul is black…

Madison Carter has been terrified of Scott Lee since the night he saved her from an evil sorcerer – then melted into a man-eating monster before her eyes. The werewolf is a slave to the moon, but Madison’s nightmares are not.

Despite her fears, when Madison’s brother, Clinton, is bitten by a werewolf, she knows there is only one man who can help. A man who frightens her all the more because even in her nightmares, he also thrills her.

Together for the first time since that terrible night, Scott and Madison drive to Clinton’s home only to discover that he’s vanished. Frantic now, Madison must overcome her fears and uncover hidden strengths if she hopes to save him. And she’s not the only one fighting inner demons. Scott’s are literal, and they have him convinced that he will never deserve the woman he loves.

*Stand-alone companion to the Cassie Scot series




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